Sunday, 9 December 2012


Thursday 5th August 2010.

Heavy, heavy rain last night. The Indus is in full spate. Stanzin told us the bridge at Basgo had been washed away. In Tackmachik some of the villagers were aligning themselves along the steep, stoney banks of the river. They had long poles of wood and they were using them to winkle tree trunks and branches out the spinning, foaming torrents. It is difficult, dangerous work. Not only do they have to salvage the wood, they have to drag it up the steep banks to the road, then take it home. Perhaps some of the luckier ones will have a donkey to help. Stanzin's father in law is one of the men undertaking this arduous task. She takes us to the foot bridge and we watch for a while. He hooks the wood as it spins past, manoeuvers it closer to the bank, then throws it up onto the stones. Stanzin is worried about him while he is doing this. It is very dangerous, and the river has no mercy.

That evening we were invited to Stanzin's Mum's house for dinner. The house is on the mountain side. To reach it one has to climb a wooden step ladder. Stanzin's Grandfather (90 years) lives here, too. 'How does your Grandfather climb up and down this ladder, every day?' Laurel asked, gingerly manoevering herself up to the house, 'with no bother at all, and faster than you!' came back the humorous reply. There are no prams or baby buggies to be seen in Ladakh. There are no reclining armchairs either. In the West we think we are making life easier for ourselves, we are actually taking away our natural movements. No wonder we are stiff when we get old!

We sat outside in the courtyard, one storey up and Stanzin rolled thin, round pasta, and twirled them on her fingers into lovely butterfly shapes for dinner. Lightening crackled continuously round the mountain peaks above our heads. It filled the sky with an eerie, petrol blue luminosity. I leaned my elbows on the mud brick courtyard wall and stared and stared at this hair raising spectacle. I was standing on an earth floor 11,000 feet up in the air with electricity cracking and fizzing all around me.
Stanzin and her niece, Rigzin Angmo, age 9, sang a lovely Ladakhi song. Then Rigzin Angmo danced for us while she and Stanzin sang. Both the dance and the song were beautiful and sweet and delicate. It was so magical, cradled in the brown, earthen courtyard in the dark, with this lovely, wee girl singing to us and the blue lightning sparkling all around. Jigmet Chopel, age 2, decided he would dance for us, too. He encouraged his mother and Rigzin Angmo to sing and Laurel and I to clap in time and he danced and danced until it was time for dinner.
It is the most ethereal time I have as yet, been privileged to experience.

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